Rowena Scherer is the Founder and CEO of eat2explore, an award-winning family cooking kit inspiring cultural exploration through diverse global cuisine. She is an experienced financial executive who followed her passion for food, travel, and children to start an experiential explorer box for the whole family. Rowena is a graduate of The French Culinary Institute and holds an Executive MBA from NYU Stern.
In this episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, John Corcoran interviews Rowena Scherer, the Founder and CEO of eat2explore, about her journey in building a subscription meal kit company. Rowena also talks about the importance of having a mentor, the challenges she faced building her company, and how eat2explore promotes diversity.
Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:
- Rowena Scherer’s cooking background and how an experience at a vacation cooking class inspired a career shift
- The challenges Rowena faced building eat2explore
- Rowena talks about funding her company, her business partners, and how she decides which countries to feature in cooking kits
- How Rowena handles supply for her ingredients and learns about different cultures
- How eat2explore was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the biggest lessons Rowena has learned from her career shift
- Rowena talks about being a mentor, how eat2explore helps promote diversity, and her advice on getting picky eaters to eat different foods
- The people Rowena acknowledges for their support
Resources Mentioned In This Episode
- eat2explore on Facebook| Instagram| Twitter
- Rowena Scherer on LinkedIn
- Elise Holtzman on LinkedIn
- The Lawyer’s Edge Podcast
- Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO)
- Blue Apron
- Adam Zbar on LinkedIn
- Trisha Marie Stein on LinkedIn
- Chris Wilkerson on LinkedIn
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Rise25 Cofounders, Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran, have been podcasting and advising about podcasting since 2008.
Welcome to the revolution, the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, where we ask today’s most successful entrepreneurs to share the tools and strategies they use to build relationships and connections to grow their revenue. Now, your host for the revolution, John Corcoran.
John Corcoran 0:40
All right, welcome everyone. John Corcoran here, the host of this show. You know, if you’re new to this show, you haven’t checked it out before, check out our archives because we’ve got some great interviews with smart CEOs, founders, and entrepreneurs of companies and organizations ranging from Netflix to Kinkos’, YPO, EO, Activision Blizzard, LendingTree, OpenTable. Go check them out. I’m also the Co-founder of Rise25, where we help connect b2b business owners to their ideal prospects. And my guest here today, Rowena, you’re gonna have to help me with the last name Rowena Scherer? Yes. Oh, good. Glad I didn’t ask beforehand, which I should have done, Rowena Scherer. She is the Founder of a company called eat2explore, which helps people with cooking food kits. That introduces them to different cultures and cuisines around the globe. And so we’re going to talk about that there’s an educational component to it, there’s a physical component to it. There’s a community experience component to it. We’re going to talk all about that, and she’s going to share what the experience has been like growing that company over the last few years. And of course, this episode is brought to you by Rise25, where we help b2b businesses to get clients, referrals, and strategic partnerships with done for you podcasts and content marketing. You can go to our website at rise25media.com to learn more about it.
Alright, Rowena. It’s such a pleasure to have you here. And of course, a big shout out to Elise Holtzman, who is a client of ours, who introduced us, who you know through the EO community and in New York. Go check out Elise’s podcast. Now, let me start with where it started. For all you you spent years working on Wall Street, working in banking, and then you go on a vacation to Thailand, and you do a vacation cooking class. And that inspired you to kind of make a major career change. So take us back to what happened at that cooking class. And what really like how it like tapped into your your history and your background and your upbringing made you want to make a big career shift.
Rowena Scherer 2:36
Actually, I would take even back a few more years. So I grew up in Malaysia, and I grew up cooking with my mom and my sisters. My mom would make us every Sunday, like no phones, no, no meeting friends, you’re coming home, we’re gonna sit down and make lunch together. And that’s sort of kind of how I grew up. And then I because of that routine, and that love of cooking. Over time, I came to Wall Street work in New York. And after I finished my executive MBA, I’m like, I don’t want to have children yet. I really love culinary experience. So I actually did a culinary degree at the French Culinary Institute over weekends for a year. So that was kind of my my experience, formal experience in a way. But I never really want to be a chef or on a restaurant. Because it’s a lot and and i i enjoy banking, but I love hosting I love traveling with you know, learning about different culture and food. So I had then have two children and it was at a cooking class in Koh Samui, Thailand, in the spring of 2016. And my children were nine and 12 at that point, and I vividly remember we have this cooking class and they look at me they’re like, Mom, I have just to onion What do you want me to do with it? And I was like, oh my god, like when I was their age, I can make a meal for the whole family I you know, a feed myself. And yet I have children that so helpless, feeding themselves even, you know, it’s a life skill. Again, in the past, you know that there’s part of education curriculum, you have home economics, but nowadays you don’t have home economics. So you know, children doesn’t even know how to boil water, or, you know, boil an egg or anything like that. So this those are my children at that point where I’m just like, so disappointed with them and with myself, because I didn’t give them the opportunity all taught them how to do it, right. I just want them to do go get their homework done. Stay away from my kitchen. I just get everything done quickly. No one’s got hurt. And it was actually the wrong thing to do as a parent. It you know, cooking together. For me with my parents, my mom and my sister It was kind of a moment where we were together, we kind of talk we kind of, you know, have an experience being together, which it’s it’s rare and it’s now I feel I lost that with my kids so, so that trips kind of make me also reassess my life. I have been on Wall Street, you know, been there. And I kind of burned out. So this was a moment where do I really want to continue doing this career? And and Or do I want to just now take a moment reassess. Go without Pash my real passion? Like I was just, you know, thinking like, what am I passion? I love food, I love cooking. I love traveling. I love teaching, I really love children, I feel children is our next, our hope for the future. Like they need to be better than us. And so how can I make a make a mark in a way in people’s life, so So I then say that I have the experience, I’d lived overseas, I, I live in Korea, I live in Australia, I’ve you know, Hong Kong, you name it. I’ve been everywhere with JPMorgan. And, and so being, like, foreign culture is very, very comfortable for me. And cooking is very comfortable for me. So I thought, you know, why not bring that experience to people’s home. And actually, along the way, as I was creating recipes, I actually stopped cooking with my kids. Like, every Sunday, we started cooking every recipe together. And now both of them know how to cook. Like my daughter doesn’t even eat my food at all. She just makes all her all three meals, which is nice. So now it’s it’s I feel like it’s a success that they now have a life skill. And in they can. In fact, my my daughter is right now in Italy doing a farm to table class in Siena. So that’s great. Yeah, that’s cool.
John Corcoran 6:55
And did you look around and see that there weren’t any solutions out there and kind of come to the conclusion that you needed to start it because this is no small endeavor? There’s a lot involved in building this kind of company.
Rowena Scherer 7:07
Yeah. So I, I actually came back and from the trip and I went to my partners I like, I need to take a sabbatical to reassess and do a research and see if this is even something possible. Like do I really want to start a company like I have no experience, zero experience, and I’m trying to create an e-commerce. So what’s interesting at that point was, you know, Blue Apron was was coming with becoming popular HelloFresh does all this meal kits becoming popular. I’ve tried them and I never really enjoy the produce or the flavors. And I also feel like there’s an element of learning and teaching that is not included, especially cultural, cultural learning. So I feel there is a, there’s room for another meal kit. So when I first started, eat2explore was a meal kit. And my concept was culturally learned cultural learning. So every boss every time is every boss is a different country. And then we I will work with the local New York farmers to bring farm fresh on the table. So that’s how eat2explore was born, a meal kit as of on January of 2017 beta test with friends and it’s slowly grew. But the first six months was hell, like I was so burned out, you know, going to a to a, you know, in kitchen, industrial kitchen, getting all the ingredients ready and then delivering fresh ingredients. And I also asked my customers, I’m like, What do you like about us what you don’t like about us and everyone like keeps saying the recipe is so easy to follow the flavors amazing, just don’t know about cooking every week, and fresh ingredients coming from the farm. And you know, it’s actually doesn’t last as long so it will get faster. And so after six months, I kind of reassess and also the summer of 2017 is what was when Blue Apron went public it didn’t do very well and then you got Amazon bought Whole Foods. And so my wall street you know, finance experience telling me that what I’m doing right now, it’s not gonna work economically. And so, you know, I can’t expand is too much to deal with shipping fresh ingredients. So then I entered a, an extra Entrepreneur Challenge at NYU, to test out my idea. And for the six months I did really deep more research more interviews, talking to entrepreneurs, and everyone is like why do you want to do fresh ingredients, you know, see how Blue Apron is doing? And I so I then reassess. I decided to pivot and it makes so much sense to not have fresh ingredients and Knowing how hard spices are just provide the curated spices and condiments and improve the learning part. So we then create more ways to learn the culture, the history, the music, and art, everything about the country. And then we kind of scale down the recipes to only three recipes each box. So you can do it once a week like cooking once a week, your family pick a day, you know, that is the day you routinely do it. And then you can try different country every month. So that’s when the new eat2explore, the current interest to our model came together was in in 2018, we relaunched this as a experiential cooking kit, we call it explorer kit in late 2018.